New Orleans Day 3: A Lazy Christmas

The Oceana Grill in New Orleans decked out for Christmas
The festive setting for our Christmas dinner.

Remember when you were a kid, up at the crack of dawn awaiting the chance to open presents? Well, we did basically the exact opposite of that this Christmas, sleeping delightfully late. Our Christmas brunch reservation was set for noon, so we did what one should do when vacationing on Christmas—laze around aimlessly.

We left the hotel around 11:30, stopping by Jackson Square to check out the shuttered Café du Monde, which only closes on Christmas. Jackson Square itself was still pretty busy, as more and more tourists arrived the longer we were in town. The mules were certainly doing a brisk business on Christmas morning.

Cafe du Monde closed on Christmas Day.

When we planned this trip, we had a hard time figuring out exactly what to do on Christmas, since most of the Quarter closes down. We were hoping to do a jazz brunch, but the places that typically offer them were all closed. After a bit of online research, we made a reservation at a restaurant called Kingfish, which had pretty good reviews.

Unfortunately, when we showed up for our brunch reservation, it turned out that they were offering a special Christmas menu. This was contrary to what they’d advertised online. Not only was I more in the mood for breakfast food (even though it was noon, it was still the first meal of the day), but we didn’t really feel like paying $45 per person for lunch. We ended up canceling our reservation at Kingfish—hoping destiny would point us toward something better. And man, the universe really came through.

Just a couple blocks away, we passed by a restaurant that smelled delicious. We looked at the menu, and sure enough, they were serving brunch until 1:30. Like a lot of restaurants in the Quarter, this place didn’t take reservations, so we were able to get in after only about a 15 minute wait.

The restaurant was the Oceana Grill, and they served us the absolute best breakfast I’ve ever had. Seriously, if you’re in New Orleans, go here for breakfast—you will not regret it.

I was basically ready to eat my own arm off by the time we were seated, so we ended up ordering three different breakfasts to split. First, the Cajun Breakfast, which came with eggs, bacon, and very delicious gator sausage. This was good, but nothing compared to the rest of the order.

We both were nuts for their pain perdu, the New Orleans version of french toast. Just think of the best french toast you’ve ever had, than multiply that by a factor of like ten.

But, for me, the most amazing part was the crawfish omelet. This beautiful creation from the mind of a genius was an omelet filled with crawfish, topped with crawfish etouffee. I still daydream about this omelet, and it’ll be one of my first meals the next time we get back to New Orleans.

The crawfish omelette at Oceana Grill in New Orleans, LA
The omelette of my dreams!

This totally chance find was one of the highlights of our trip. We ate outside in their quiet courtyard, and it was just what Christmas brunch in New Orleans should be.

After such a large meal, we needed to take a short walk around the Quarter to help us digest. We took a stroll down Bourbon to see what it was like on Christmas. With the exception of a few places which were closed, the party on Bourbon seemed much the same as any other day.

We eventually made it back to our hotel, where we spent a nice relaxing afternoon just laying around, reading, and watching some television.

One thing we love to do, wherever we travel, is to eat in the restaurants of celebrity chefs. We watch a fair amount of food television, and as I’m sure you’ve noticed, we love to eat. For Christmas dinner, we’d made a reservation at Besh Steak—the steakhouse of acclaimed New Orleans chef John Besh. This was before all the sexual harassment allegations, obviously.

The downside of eating three breakfasts was that I was still full to the point of bursting by the time our dinner reservation rolled around at 6:00. The thought of eating steak was a bit too much for me to contemplate, so we decided to cancel our reservation at Besh Steak and find a late night dinner elsewhere.

We were so impressed with the breakfast at Oceana Grill, we ended up deciding to give their dinner a try. This time, we sat upstairs, right next to their Christmas tree, so it felt very festive.

The dinner at Oceana was very good, though it couldn’t really compare to the majesty of breakfast. We did try another version of char-grilled oysters, which were a little different than most of the others we’d tried. They were topped with a creamier, spicier garlic sauce, and we thought their oysters were the nicest quality of all the ones we tried (plump and free of grit). I was able to get one of my all-time favorite New Orleans dishes: blackened redfish topped with crawfish etouffee. Kathleen ordered an oyster po’boy, which got a little overshadowed by the incredible oyster po’boy she’d get at Johnny’s the following morning. Overall, Oceana was very good to us, both at brunch and at dinner, and I highly suggest paying them a visit the next time you’re in New Orleans.

An oyster po'boy at Oceana Grill in New Orleans, LA
Christmas po’boy.

We felt like having a drink or two before heading back to the hotel, so we decided to check out Pat O’s. Christmas is apparently one of the only days when locals go there, so the place was absolutely packed. We were able to find a table set off from the courtyard in a quieter offshoot, and we enjoyed a couple Christmas hurricanes—an excellent ending to a delicious Christmas.

Up next in New Orleans Day 4: a scavenger hunt through the quarter and a lackluster final dinner.


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